On the Death of My Brother

As the years went by, I developed a vision for my brother’s old age-not that he was going to get better-I knew that was not going to come to pass. Rather, I always hoped that he would get old enough that it wouldn’t matter. I had a fantasy that the symptoms would subside somewhat and that by the time we were in our 70s we would just be two grumpy old Jewish guys on a bench in Golden Gate Park or out in the avenues. I imagined that when we got that old the differences in our lives and what we did as adults would matter less. We would talk about my kids, baseball and the shared childhood that neither of us could ever figure out, but that I was able to leave behind.

Tom Perkins and Other Efforts to Shut Down Discussion of Income Inequality

Perkins' Kristallnacht comparison seems to be based on two ideas. First, in recent weeks wealthy tech workers in San Francisco have faced both rhetorical attacks and physical harassment, notably on their way to work on special buses operated by Google, Apple and other technology companies. Workers being harassed by angry, if largely unarmed and entirely non-lethal groups of protesters and Jews being stuffed into cattle cars by a heavily armed state apparatus and being sent to death camps appears to be a nuance lost on Perkins. Equally significantly, while state sponsored anti-Semitic demonstrations preceded actual genocide under the Nazis, harassment by fellow citizens, without support or encouragement from the state, does not lead inexorably, and rarely at all, to genocide or anything like it. To ignore that crucial reality is Reducto ad Hitlerum that is both offensive and ignorant.

Goodbye to Candlestick

For over half a century, Candlestick Park has been one of the most famous and recognizable, if not pleasant or attractive, buildings in San Francisco, but it will be demolished sometime in the coming months or years. It is difficult not to see the imminent demolition of Candlestick Park as a symbol for something in today's San Francisco. San Francisco, like all cities, is in transition, but the transition has accelerated in recent years as a city that was once a quirky and cool provincial town that punched well above its weight in culture and progressive politics, is looking more like a playground for the rich while many others are being priced out. It is consistent with these developments that the 49ers will be leaving the city for Santa Clara County where they will be closer to the center of Silicon Valley power and wealth, but physically and economically out of reach for many of their most faithful fans.

A New Identity for the Giants and their Fans

For longtime Giants fans, this means rethinking our identity as fans. We are no longer rooting for a forgotten team searching for a championship, a team that for a period of close to half a century were either mediocre or found a way to lose championships in dramatic, and occasionally strange, ways. Fans of other teams have experienced similar things. Any thoughtful Red Sox fan would have to rethink the narrative of being cursed and long suffering that was part of what being a fan of that team meant for more than eight decades, but after 2004 and 2007 can no longer be taken seriously. Similarly, a fan of the Orioles from 1966-1983 would have thought of that team as always contending, having stellar pitching and usually being in or around the playoffs while occasionally winning a championship, but over the last 30 years, the Orioles have evolved into being a very different, and less successful, franchise.

Giants Win!!

The Giants have won the World Series bringing the championship to San Francisco for the first time ever! When Buster Posey caught the third strike on Nelson Cruz, a journey which began with my mother dropping off me, my brother and our friend Charles, who back then was known as Tony, on the corner of Clay and Van Ness in San Francisco sometime in the mid 1970s, ended in a hotel room in Tbilisi, Georgia more than 30 years later. Those spring and summer mornings, my mother would give each of us seven dollars-three for a ticket in the upper reserved section of old Candlestick Park, the remainder was for bus fare and food. When the bus driver was in a good mood and only charged fifty cents for the ballpark express, there was plenty left over for hot dogs, soda, popcorn and ice cream, but if the driver charged two dollars or more, it made for a hungry day at the ‘Stick.

Get Ready for the Most Political World Series in History

It is probably the most politically polarizing World Series in history as one team’s most famous fan and former owner is former President is George W. Bush while the other team plays in the country’s most left of center major city and has long been probably the most progressive franchise in the game. The “Let Timmy Smoke” signs and t-shirts, referring to Giants’ ace Tim Lincecum’s marijuana bust would fit in as about as well at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington as prominent Republican politicians would at AT&T Park, or anywhere else in San Francisco. Somehow this is fitting for the first World Series that, should it go to six or seven games, will be the first to be concluded after Election Day.

Cardboard Gods and Our Baseball Obsessions

Wilker has written an extraordinarily honest book about growing up and forging adult lives and adult relationships which, while not really about baseball, still made me feel like I was back at an almost empty Candlestick Park watching the Giants lose, playing ball in the Presidio, reading yet another baseball magazine or book and, yes, buying a pack of baseball cards and giving the gum to my brother.

Waiting for the 43

When people ask me how I spent my teenage years, I tell them a lot of different things. Sometimes I try to describe the political and social climate of San Francisco during the late 1970s and early 1980s, or talk about spending evenings at Baker Beach, the Palace of Fine Arts, or other foggy outdoor venues where my friends and I tried to find a little time and space away from the adult world. Occasionally, I describe the shows we went to at places like the Fab Mab or the On Broadway. Too frequently, I tell stories about freezing, eating cold hot dogs and watching yet another ground ball go through Johnnie Lemaster’s legs at Candlestick Park.

When people ask me how I spent my teenage years, I tell them a lot of different things. Sometimes I try to describe the political and social climate of San Francisco during the late 1970s and early 1980s, or talk about spending evenings at Baker Beach, the Palace of Fine Arts, or other foggy outdoor venues where my friends and I tried to find a little time and space away from the adult world. Occasionally, I describe the shows we went to at places like the Fab Mab or the On Broadway. Too frequently, I tell stories about freezing, eating cold hot dogs and watching yet another ground ball go through Johnnie Lemaster’s legs at Candlestick Park.

I almost never, however, tell people the truth: I spent most of my teenage years waiting for the 43 Masonic.

 

The Worst Player Ever-The Case for Johnnie LeMaster

LeMaster was a unique combination of mediocre fielding, atrocious hitting, a strong link to bad teams and bad periods in team history and, best of all, a sense of humor and awareness. Of course, being the worst non-pitcher to ever have a big league career is an extraordinary accomplishment, accordingly LeMaster is remembered fondly by most Giants fans, but few players ever played the game so badly for so long.

Reading Willie Mays, Reflecting on San Francisco and Willie McCovey

 

During his time in San Francisco, Mays rapidly became integrated into that city’s civic leadership becoming a fixture at fundraising events and in the media while becoming close with San Francisco’s political, financial and cultural elite. The San Francisco in which Hirsch describes Mays as living is one about which little is written. It was a San Francisco beginning to undergo substantial change, but one that was still, after a fashion, a prosperous post-war middle class American city. Hirsch’s descriptions of that world should be interesting to San Franciscans who do not even like baseball.

Lets Play World Series

 

lark stood on first, Thompson on third and the game stopped. The crowd cheered for several minutes. Crazy Charlie, Johnnie Mash and I fell on top of each other. The hundreds of hours of our youth we had spent shivering, eating bad hot dogs, warm soda and soft popcorn watching the hapless Giants lose as groundballs went through the legs of the likes of Johnnie Lemaster or Rennie Stennett or as forgettable players like Jerry Martin and Milt May failed to drive in runs and pitchers like Atlee Hammaker and Jeff Robinson gave up walks and home runs, seemed worth it at that moment.

Thanksgiving San Francisco 1978

San Francisco was a different town thirty years ago. It still had not become the city that Harvey Milk helped build, but never saw. San Francisco in 1978 was a city in transition; and Dan White, the man who had assassinated the Mayor and Harvey Milk was fighting against that transition and that progress. Dan White represented the reactionary and hateful elements that feared Harvey Milk who, in turn, feared nobody. Thirty years later, it is hard to imagine that San Francisco of the late 1970s was a city that was in some real ways was still divided. While the City Hall demonstrations against Dan White remain important images from that period, it is occasionally forgotten that strong reservoirs of support remained in several parts of San Francisco for the policeman turned city supervisor turned cold-blooded killer.

Ruby the Pizza Guy

Among the emails, phone calls, and notes congratulating us after my younger son, Reuben, was born was one from one of my oldest friends from San Francisco, asking if I had named him “after the pizza guy.” Reuben was named after my wife’s grandmother Ruth. But after he was born, and as we began to call him Ruby, I found myself thinking more about “the pizza guy.”

“The pizza guy” was Danny Rubinstein, known as Ruby. I had worked for him for one summer, at his restaurant Ruby’s Gourmet Pizza, fifteen years before Reuben was born. Ruby’s Gourmet Pizza was one of San Francisco’s—and perhaps America’s—first restaurants that sold pizza made from gourmet ingredients. A not-particularly-large slice piece of pizza at Ruby’s ranged from $2.35 to $3.25, a lot of money for a piece slice in 1986—even one with sun dried tomatoes, smoked salmon, pesto, or escargot.